Naples and Pompeii

An early start today. I am awake before 6.30am and I feel the ship shudder which normally means she is manourvering into port. I glance out and immediately spot the island of Capri in the distance as Reflection backs into the Port of Naples. We are docked alongside Aida Perla who we followed through the straits of Messina last night. She’s a nice looking ship but is exclusively geared toward the German cruise market.
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At 6.30 there is a soft rap at the door. Room service. We ordered breakfast as we didn’t want the rush of getting showered and going up to the OCV for breakfast this morning. This way we can eat at leisure then get ready to go ashore. We head towards the theatre just before 8am to pick up our tour group. It’s very well organised and we are soon landside boarding our coach.

Our trip today is to Pompeii. This is our third visit to Naples and on the first occasion we took a drive along the Amalfi coast, on the second we went to the island of Capri. So on this trip we decided to visit the ancient ruined city. Our tour guide today is called Vito. A very dapper older guy that all the other tour guides refer to as Corleone for obvious reasons.

We head straight to Pompeii in an effort to beat most of the other tour groups. If anything like the Acropolis in Athens it will be teaming with them in no time. It’s about a 30 minute drive from the port. We all have radio headphones so that we can tune into Vito for commentary. He’s very good and very funny. He seems to know everyone and everything. He is a wealth of knowledge as you would expect a guide to be.
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We first visit the barracks where the gladiators were house and trained and then into the small acoustically perfect amphitheatre. Vito goes into detail on how they achieved such perfect acoustics but I don’t recall the exact process. Impressive though for 2000 years ago. So is the plumbing and irrigation. We see the many bars that are still mostly intact apart from their roofs which caved in from the weight of the ash and pumice from the volcanic explosion of 79ad. Vito explains how to spot which are brothels (it involves a phallic symbol in the road).

We enter one house that contains the remains of a pregnant woman. Early excavations that uncovered bodies soon found that when dug up they disintegrated immediately. They came up with a way of preserving them by drilling holes and pouring in plaster of paris which is then left to set. What you then see is a perfect cast of the body with the skeleton still inside. Apparently they have uncovered over 3000 bodies. Most of the other 12,000 that died would have been vaporised instantly depending on where they were at the time of the explosion.

We enter the communal bathing area that has a cold room followed by a tepid and then hot room. All brilliantly designed from the way that the condensed steam is collected on the ceiling and directed down the side to be used again.

We travel along ancient roads to a large mansion with mosiac flooring, dining rooms and gardens. A cute satyr statue stands exactly where he did thousands of years ago overlooking the entrance to the property. I wonder how many visitors he has witnessed enter over the years? We then enter the Forum which is what we would call a main square today and a gathering place for the inhabitants of Pompeii. It offers very good views up to Vesuvius, the instrument of its eventual destruction.

After this fascinating trip we head back to our coach and the journey back into Naples. Rather than board the ship we head into Naples itself for lunch. We find a Pizzaria and I order a Margherita. Apparently the only legitimate pizza in the town that invented this dish. All other variations are not considered a true pizza. It’s a good pizza. We then have coffees in a roadside cafe before boarding Reflection where I start the onerous task of packing. Not my favourite part of the cruise experience.
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We dress for dinner making sure our cases are outside our cabin before we leave. Luckily there are two empty seats at the Martini Bar where I order my usual Sunset Martini followed by a Tropitini. Peter has a Lemon Drop and then a Sapphire Collintini. Keen to experience one last sunset we head up to the Sunset Bar. It’s the best evening of the whole cruise. Relaxed ambient music is playing, there is a soft breeze and folk are pretty chilled. We dinner again in Qsine. We have better seats than last time, right next to the window with fabulous views over to Italy as we head north. The food once again is excellent. We order a few of what we had last time but swapped out the Disco Shrimp and Royal Tacos for the Meatball Madness. One of the three large meatballs that came was ok, we didn’t care for the other two. We manage dessert this time. I have the silver bullet, literally a large silver bullet filled with sorbet and gelato. Peter has cheescaketini (I actually don’t know what he had so made that name up).

Once again we waddle out of the restaurant. Luckily it’s only a short waddle to the Ensemble Lounge where we get some brandies to help with digestion. We leave as the jazz band starts playing soon after we sit. I don’t like jazz music. We decide to get some bottled water and then head to bed. The end of a fantastic cruise on a fantastic cruise ship. The staff, the ports and the people we met meant it was one of the best cruises we have taken. Less than 22 weeks till the next one.

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Patrick O'Halloran

Cruisers, Bloggers, Cocktail Drinkers.

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